New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday dismissed pleas seeking to stay the decision of Delhi government prohibiting any discount or rebate on the MRP of liquor in the national capital. While pronouncing the order, Justice Kameswar Rao said, “I have dismissed the applications, will upload the order.”
The court listed the main petitions for further hearing on March 25.
The applications were filed by various liquor licence holders in their petitions challenging the Delhi excise commissioner’s February 28 order discontinuing any discount or rebate on the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of liquor here.
The Delhi government has opposed the pleas while contending that the discounts were giving rise to bootlegging activity.
The high court had on Monday reserved its order on the pleas in which the petitioners claimed that the government’s order was causing them an irreparable loss on account of the substantial decrease in their business.
The petitioners’ advocates had argued that the Delhi government’s order was passed by the concerned authority without any jurisdiction and was perverse and arbitrary and once the tender is called for and licences are issued, it is not open for the authorities to make changes in the tender conditions in that excise year unless there is a change in the law.
The Delhi government, in its affidavit filed through Assistant Commissioner, Department of Excise, in response to a pleas by several liquor licence holders against the prohibition, has said that promotion of responsible drinking and prevention of illicit trade of liquor is the primary objective behind its order prohibiting any rebate or discount by liquor retailers and that it did not intend to make discounting a tool to encourage unhealthy competition and market distortions.
In February, some retailers “started giving huge discounts/offers on the MRP of liquor (‘buy one, get one and ‘buy one, get two’ etc)” and “banners and hoardings were put up by the licensees” to lure the customers with freebies which resulted in huge crowds gathering outside the liquor vends leading to adverse law and order situation, the government has asserted.
It has told the high court that it cannot promote drunkenness through discounts that were given in a “sporadic manner” and were being misused by those with “big pockets” to create a monopoly.
It was the petitioners’ grievance that even though the applicable excise policy and the tender expressly permit a grant of discounts by the retail licensees, the Delhi government on February 28 prohibited the discounts without giving them an opportunity to be heard.
On February 28, the Delhi excise commissioner had passed an order discontinuing any discount or rebate on the MRP of liquor in the national capital.
The order referred to reports of large crowds at liquor stores as well as unhealthy market practices as the reason for the discontinuation of the discounts and said that the vendors are indulging in promotional activities which are prohibited under the Delhi Excise Act.
In the plea filed by Bhagwati Transformer Corporation and others, the liquor licence holders contended that the actions of the authorities are arbitrary, disproportionate, discriminatory, and violative of their fundamental rights under Article 14 of the Constitution.